Debunking common myths about smoking cigarettes and quitting

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, two leading doctors separate fact from fiction.

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When it comes to smoking, every individual cites a different point of view. A smoker has a ready list of how smoking a cigarette can help them get through daily life—from relieving stress to aiding indigestion and everything in between. 

Although quitting smoking can be difficult, it is attainable with commitment and determination. Below are some of the myths prevailing about quitting smoking. 

Myth: Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is just as bad as smoking or is ineffective

The addiction to smoking is mainly due to the nicotine content in cigarettes, which causes the release of dopamine—the 'happy hormone'—that raises your spirits. Thus, it keeps you craving for more. While nicotine is addictive, a more severe threat comes from the tar and carbon monoxide which are not found in NRT products, thus making them safer. 

The nicotine from NRT is delivered to the brain much slower than when smoking a cigarette. Therefore, it takes longer to truly affect you. Simultaneously, it also works by reducing the craving for nicotine, thus gradually ridding you of your addiction to it.

Myth: Smoking leads to weight loss

There is considerable evidence that cigarette smoking alters the gut microbe and increases the pathogenic bacteria in your gut. This can lead to gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, psoriasis, and other gut dysfunctions. When the gut function is disrupted, it becomes difficult for people to lose or manage their weight more efficiently. 

Myth: Quitting smoking requires willpower

While willpower is important in quitting smoking, it is not the only determinant. Nicotine alters the brain's chemistry and causes physical dependence on cigarettes. Quitting smoking entails treating physical addiction to nicotine and the psychological and behavioural changes caused due to it. While willpower and determination are crucial, many people use additional tools to help them achieve their goals. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) items such as patches, gums or inhalers; counselling; behavioural therapy; social support groups; and lifestyle changes are a few examples.

Myth: It's too late to quit smoking since the harm has already been done to my body

Quitting smoking at any age has short-term and long-term health benefits. Regardless of how long you've smoked or how much harm you've done to your body, quitting it at any point in time can have a substantial positive impact on your health. Remember, the sooner you quit smoking, the better your health will be. When you stop smoking, your body starts healing and repairing itself. Some of the advantages of quitting include:

●    Reduced cancer risk: While quitting smoking does not entirely remove the chance of getting smoking-related cancers, it does cut your risk greatly as compared to continuing the habit. 

●    Reduced heart disease risk: Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease is dramatically reduced.

●    Improved lung function: Quitting smoking can result in better lung function. You can breathe more easily and your lung capacity improves gradually.

●    Improved immune system: When you stop smoking, your immune system starts to recover, which improves your overall health and ability to fight off ailments.

Inputs by Tanisha Bawa, Founder of TAN|365, award-winning gut health expert and certified nutrition coach, and Dr Manoj Kutteri, Medical Director & CEO of Atmantan Wellness Centre